With the holidays just around the corner, you're probably busy planning for all the family gatherings and festivities. But while you’re deciding on what gifts to buy and what meals to serve, there may be something you’re overlooking – your oral health.
The holidays can get busy and your priorities may shift during this time, but neglecting to brush, floss and eat right can affect your oral health.
It’s also a time when we can feel overwhelmed and our health can be affected. People under stress sometimes make poor lifestyle choices – smoking, consuming too much alcohol and eating more sugary foods – which can increase the risk of serious issues including oral cancer, gum disease or tooth decay.
I can’t give you more time to plan and prepare, but I can offer some helpful tips that can help make your holidays a reason to celebrate.
• Schedule dental examinations for the family before the holidays to make sure there are no current problems with your oral health. A cavity left untreated can become painful and can dampen any holiday spirit.
• Be prepared for dental emergencies. From a chipped tooth to a lost filling, a dental emergency can hamper any celebration. Talk with your dentist about his or her availability after hours and during the holidays. Your dentist may be able to provide you with an alternate phone number or the location of an emergency dental clinic in your area. Have this information readily available – post it on your refrigerator or by your phone. If a dental emergency does occur, call your dentist or alternative dental contact immediately. Explain your symptoms and ask to be seen as soon as possible.
• Maintain your brushing and flossing routines. Even during hectic times, it’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Having good oral health habits throughout the year can see you through occasional indulgences.
• Avoid activities that could injure your teeth and gums: don’t chew ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth; chew hard foods, such as nuts slowly; and avoid using your teeth as scissors on tape, packaging or ribbon.
• Practice moderation. Holiday gatherings can be filled with alcohol and sugary treats, but too much of anything may be harmful to your health. Drinking too much alcohol and pop may wear away tooth enamel and discolour teeth. Eating too many candies or other sugary treats may increase your risk of tooth decay.
• Eat a balanced diet. When preparing your holiday meals, include foods that are nutritious and beneficial to your health – greens and winter vegetables are great sources of vitamins A and C. Candies and other sugary treats are a big part of the holidays but, again, enjoy them in moderation.
• Rest and relaxation. This time of year can be stressful and this can affect your oral health. Stress can lead to bruxism (teeth grinding) and may lower your immunity to infections, such as gum disease. Try to manage and reduce stress in your life by eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.
The holidays are a time to eat, drink and be merry and with enough preparation (and self-preservation), you can celebrate them with a smile.
For details, visit the Ontario Dental Association’s website at www.youroralhealth.ca
Dr. Jody Zajacz is a general dentist practising and living in Toronto and the mother of two young daughters. She is a member of the Ontario Dental Association. The Ontario Dental Association is the voluntary professional organization that represents the dentists of Ontario, supports its members, and is dedicated to the provision of exemplary oral health care and promotes the attainment of optimal health for the people of Ontario. Visit www.youroralhealth.ca